Thursday, July 18, 2024
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MLB Preview: Boston Red Sox (66-60) at Houston Astros (72-55)

BOSTON RED SOX NOTES:

STATE OF THE SOX: The Red Sox have lost back-to-back games after winning each of their previous 3. They are 9-6 in their last 15 games. The Sox are 26-18 (.591) in their last 44 games since 6/30, MLB’s 7th-best record in that time (4th in AL). At 66-60 (.524), the Sox own MLB’s 11th-best record.

ABOUT LAST NIGHT: The Red Sox lost to the Astros last night, 7-3, despite out-hitting HOU 10-8…They recorded 10+ hits for the 5th time in their last 6 games. Tanner Houck returned from the IL and made his 1st start since 6/16, allowing 3 runs in 5.0 IP (4 H, 3 BB, 2 SO).

STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE: 26 of Boston’s remaining 36 games will be against teams that currently have a winning record (BAL-7, HOU-5, TB-5, TEX-3, TOR-3, LAD-3). Monday began a stretch of 10 straight games against teams with a winning record (at HOU, vs. LAD, vs. HOU). BOS is 33-34 against teams with a current record of .500 or better, and 33-26 against teams below .500.

NO TIME TO REST: The Red Sox are currently on a season-long 10-game road trip (3 at WSH, 3 at NYY, 4 at HOU). The Sox are in a stretch of 32 games in 34 days (7/28-
8/30)…That includes a stretch of 16 consecutive days with a game from 8/15-30.

SERIES BUSINESS: The Red Sox are 3-1-0 in their last 4 series…At 22-16-2, they have already matched their series win total from 2022 (22-24-6). With a loss today or tomorrow, Boston would fall to 9-10-2 in road series, compared to 13-7-0 at home.

EAST VS. WEST: The current series vs. HOU begins a stretch of 13 consecutive games against teams outside of the AL East. The Sox are 12-12 vs. AL West clubs, but they have lost each of their 3 road series against the division (0-3 at LAA, 1-2 at OAK, 1-2 at SEA). The Sox are 5-4 in their last 9 games against the Astros…BOS won each of last season’s series, 2-1.

PITCHING IN: Boston ranked 27th in MLB with a 5.09 ERA at the end of play on 5/15, but ranks 4th in the AL and 8th in the majors with a 4.01 ERA since then. Overall, the Sox rank 18th in the majors in ERA (4.37).

LOCK IT DOWN: The Red Sox own MLB’s best record when leading after 6 innings (51-3, .944)…In 2022, they ranked 18th in MLB when leading after 6 (63-10, .863). Boston leads MLB in save % (78.7; 37-for-47), after ranking 24th last season (57.4; 39-for-68).

CLOSING ACT: Kenley Jansen has converted each of his last 20 save opportunities since 5/20, MLB’s 2nd-longest active streak behind TOR’s Jordan Romano (21). Since 6/9, Chris Martin has allowed only 1 run over his last 27 outings (24.1 IP); he ranks 2nd in MLB with a 0.37 ERA in that span (min. 20.0 IP).

SLUGGING SOX: The Red Sox have homered in each of their last 11 games (17 total HR), their longest streak since August 2019 (19 games, 8/7-30). The Sox have homered in 19 of their 20 August games, after homering in only 16 of their previous 28 games. BOS has hit 11 HR in their last 6 games, 2nd most in the AL during that span (beginning 8/17) behind SEA (12).

ON THE OFFENSIVE: Among AL teams, the Red Sox rank 2nd in AVG (.262), doubles (272), and XBH (432), 3rd in OPS (.761), and 4th in OBP (.328) and SLG (.433). In their last 6 games, the Sox have hit .293 with a .351 OBP, .500 SLG, and .851 OPS.

RISPY BUSINESS: The Sox have gone 4-for-28 (.143 AVG) with RISP during the current series at HOU, after they went 12-for-29 (.414 AVG) during the previous series at NYY. Overall with RISP, Boston ranks 3rd in MLB in hits (306), 4th in AVG (.278), and 5th in OBP (.353). Since 6/1, Justin Turner leads the AL and ranks 3rd in MLB with a .435 AVG with RISP (30-for-69) (min. 50 AB).

REDTURN2: Justin Turner has 8 RBI in his last 4 games, going 7-for-18 over that stretch (.389 AVG, 2B, HR, BB). Since 6/1, he ranks 3rd in MLB with 60 RBI. This Saturday, Turner and his wife, Kourtney, will host the 3rd Annual Turner Trot 5K…The race will start at the DCR Memorial Hatch Shell at 8:00 a.m. and continue onto the Charles River Esplanade, with a finisher festival at the Shell.

FOREVER AND DEVERS: Rafael Devers has reached base safely in each of his last 12 games, posting a .453 OBP during that span (16-for-45, 10 R, 3 2B, 3 HR, 6 RBI, 8 BB). This is his 2nd-longest streak of 2023 (14 G, 6/13-29). Devers is 1 HR shy of his 3rd career 30-HR season (32 in 2019, 38 in 2021)…He’d join Ted Williams and Jim Rice as the only Red Sox players with three 30-HR seasons prior to turning 27. His next game played at 3rd base will be the 789th of his career, tying Jim Tabor for 4th most in Red Sox history.

HIGH FIVE: The Red Sox are 53-8 (.869) when scoring 5+ runs, tied with SEA for the best mark in MLB. They’ve scored fewer than 5 in each of their last 2 games, after scoring 5+ in 6 of their previous 7. Since 6/14, the Sox are 26-2 when scoring 5+ runs.

SCORING IN BUNCHES: The Red Sox have scored multiple runs in an inning at least once in each of their last 9 games (13 multi-run innings in that time). Since 6/1, they are 26-3 in games when they score 3+ runs in at least 1 inning.

RUNNIN’ RED SOX: The Sox rank 11th in MLB in stolen base % and 17th in steals (80.6, 87-for-108)…They have been successful in each of their last 8 attempts since 8/11. 18 players have stolen a base for Boston this season, most in the AL and tied with PIT for most in MLB.

TONIGHT’S STARTER: 41 CHRIS SALE – LHP
W-L ERA G GS IP ER HR BB SO WHIP AVG
2023 5-3 4.50 13 13 68.0 34 9 18 81 1.12 .227
CAREER 119-78 3.09 336 256 1746.0 599 187 405 2145 1.05 .219

Was charged with the loss after allowing 3 runs (2 ER) over 4.1 IP on Thursday at WSH
(2 H, 3 BB, 3 SO).

Owns a 2.20 ERA (16 ER/65.1 IP) in 9 career starts against HOU. The Sox are 9-4 in his starts this season (4-1 in last 5). In his last 8 starts (beginning 4/30), is 4-1 with a 2.60 ERA, 0.80 WHIP, .174 opponent AVG, 51 SO, and 8 BB (45.0 IP, 13 ER, 28-for-161, 4 HR). Owns the Modern Era’s highest SO/9.0 IP rate (11.10) (min. 1,000 IP). Ranks 11th in Red Sox history with 901 SO (next: Bill Monbouquette, 969). Has allowed only 4 HR over his last 10 starts, all solo HR (5 HR in his first 3 starts)

HOUSTON ASTROS NOTES:

TONIGHT’S GAME: The Astros and Red Sox will play Game 3 of their four-game series tonight, which will feature a pitching matchup of RHP José Urquidy opposite LHP Chris Sale…these two teams are in a streak of playing each other seven times within a 10-day span.

URQUIDY’S RETURN: RHP José Urquidy has only pitched in nine games this season due to a three-month stint on the IL which caused him to miss approximately 14 starts…he returned earlier this month and has pitched three times (two starts), last pitching in relief on Friday vs. SEA (0ER/2IP)…Urquidy has been a staple of the Astros pitching staff, pitching in parts of the last five seasons (2019-23) in the Astros rotation.

HOW THE WEST WAS WON: The AL West race has tightened over the last week, with the top three teams in the division all separated by 1.0 game…the Astros, who are a half game out of first, have gone 5-5 over their last 10, while the Rangers (L6) and Mariners (W8) are both streaking in different directions.

HUNTING FIRST PLACE: With the first-place Rangers idle, the Astros can move into a tie for first place in their division with a win tonight…if they win, it would mark their first time to own a share for the division lead this season…Houston has cut their deficit down to a half game on multiple occasions this season, last doing so after a win on Aug. 2.

LAST NIGHT’S W: The Astros picked up a resounding win last night, downing the Red Sox by a score of 7-3…RHP Justin Verlander was the story, as he tossed 6.0 scoreless frames, while striking out nine…he got early support from RF Kyle Tucker, who connected for his 25th homer of the season in the 1st inning…DH Jon Singleton also had a big game, going 2×3 with a pair of doubles and two RBI.

MAKING HISTORY: Future Hall of Famer RHP Justin Verlander has been working his way up the all-time lists this season, having already recorded his 500th career start, his 250th career win, and his 3,300th career strikeout in 2023…per STATS, with last night’s win, Verlander moved into a tie with Hall of Famer LHP Carl Hubbel (253) for 44th in MLB history in wins.

TODAY’S ROSTER MOVE: The Astros have reinstated 1B José Abreu from the 10-day IL…to make room for Abreu on the active roster, the Astros optioned IF David Hensley to Triple A.

2K JOSE: On Saturday, 2B Jose Altuve recorded his 2,000th career hit…he finished that game with 2,001 hits, 201 homers and 291 stolen bases in what was his 1,630th career game… according to MLB Stats, Altuve is the fastest player in MLB history (in terms of games played) to reach at least 2,000 hits, 200 homers and 200 stolen bases…the previous record holder was Hall of Famer Willie Mays, who did so in 1,669 games.

ALTUVE’S HOT STREAK: 2B Jose Altuve returned from the IL on July 26 and has since appeared in 24 games, in which he’s hit .381 (37×97) with a .455 OBP and a 1.001 OPS…he’s reached base safely in 22 of his 24 games since returning, and has hit safely in 20 of those 24 contests.

MVP NUMBERS: RF Kyle Tucker leads the AL in RBI (94), while ranking third in OPS (.902) and third in SLG (.527)… he’s also one of just three players in the Majors with 24-ormore home runs and steals, joining NL MVP candidate Ronald Acuña Jr. (28 HR, 58 SB) and SS Bobby Witt Jr. (25 HR, 37 SB)…defensively, Tucker, the reigning AL Gold Glove winner, has more starts (118) than any other AL player in right field, and has committed just one error in his 239 total chances.

FILLING UP THE STAT SHEET: 3B Alex Bregman, who has reached base safely in seven of his 10 plate appearances this series, owns a share for the AL lead in games played (126), while ranking second in walks (72), fifth in RBI (82) and 10th in OBP (.357)…Bregman has already reached 20 homers on the season and is on pace for 104 RBI, which would give him his third career 100-plus RBI season (2018-19).

YAINER BOMBS: C Yainer Diaz connected for his 18th homer of the season on Monday, becoming the eighth rookie in franchise history to hit 18-plus homers in a single season…you don’t have to look far to find others on that list, with SS Jeremy Peña (22 HR in 2022) being the last to do so, and LF Yordan Alvarez (27 HR in 2019) owning the franchise rookie record.

THE ARM BARN: The Astros bullpen has combined for a 2.25 ERA (13ER/61IP) this month, which is the lowest in the AL… RHP Bryan Abreu (7.2IP) and RHP Ryan Pressly (6IP) have been scoreless in August, while RHP Ryne Stanek (1ER/7.2IP) RHP Kendall Graveman (2ER/10.1IP) and RHP Rafael Montero (3ER/9IP) and are also having strong months.

FROM THE TRAINER’S ROOM: The Astros have three players working their way back from injury…updates on each:

  • OF Yordan Alvarez was a late scratch from last night’s lineup due to left index finger soreness.
  • OF Michael Brantley (right shoulder surgery) is scheduled to play again tonight on his rehab assignment with Triple A Sugar Land…last night, Brantley went 0x4 at Sugar Land, while playing defensively in left field for 9.0 innings…he is now 4×15 (.267) with a homer and four RBI in four games on his current injury rehab assignment.
  • RHP Phil Maton (right elbow contusion) is scheduled to throw a bullpen session off the game mound today…this is his second side session since suffering his injury, most recently doing so in the bullpen on Monday…Maton has missed 10 games since being placed on the IL on Aug. 12.

TONIGHT’S ASTROS STARTER: RHP JOSÉ URQUIDY
LAST APPEARANCE – 8/18 vs. SEA: made his first relief appearance of the season in his last outing… struck out 3 batters over 2.0 scoreless IP and allowed 3 hits without surrendering a walk…was his 1st relief outing since tossing 3.0 scoreless IP in Game 3 of last year’s World Series…has made 4 regular-season relief appearances in his career and has recorded a 3.27 ERA (4ER/11IP) in those outings.

LAST START – 8/13 vs. LAA: made his 2nd start since returning from the IL and his 1st at Minute Maid Park…struck out a season-high 7 batters through 5.0 IP, allowing 1 run on 3 hits without surrendering a walk

URQUIDY’S ADVANCED METRICS: per Baseball Savant, has held opponent’s to an 85.2 mph average velocity, which is the lowest average exit velocity amongst Astros starters…among all Astros pitchers, trails only Phil Maton (84.5) in average exit velocity.

  • is averaging a spin rate of 2,683 rpm with his curveball, which is the highest mark of his career… ranks in the 74th percentile of Major League hurlers in that category.

ABOUT URQUIDY: strike-throwing starter is making his 3rd start in the Astros rotation (and 4th overall appearance) tonight after a 3-month stint on the IL with right shoulder discomfort…has pitched in parts of 5 seasons (2019-23) for the Astros, making 70 career regular season appearances (67 starts).

  • began this season in the rotation, making 6 starts…had an up and down start to his 2023 season prior to the injury…was allowing a .297 opponent average and a 1.55 WHIP, but had pitched the Astros to a 3-3 record in his 6 starts.

MINOR LEAGUE ACTION: made 4 rehab appearances on his way back to the Major League rotation… combined to post a 4.50 ERA (7ER/14IP) with 11 strikeouts in his 4 outings…began at Triple A Sugar Land on July 14 and started twice for the Space Cowboys…his final 2 starts came for Double A Corpus Christi at San Antonio.

CALLING CARDS: has been a command specialist in his 5-year Major League career and has coupled that with soft contact to produce solid Major League results.

  • since the 2019 season, ranks 5th in the AL in walks per 9.0 ratio (2.01)…also has the 5th-lowest ground ball to fly ball ratio (0.91) in the AL since 2019 (min. 350 IP).

THE 2023 WBC: was a member of Team Mexico in the 2023 World Baseball Classic…picked up the win in a 10-3 victory over Team Canada to advance Team Mexico past pool play, allowing 2 runs on 6 hits and striking out 5 batters to 1 walk in the start.

  • made a relief appearance in the semifinal loss to Samurai Japan, allowing 1 run on 2 hits through 2.1 IP…it was Team Mexico’s 1st trip to the WBC semifinals in its 4th appearance in the tournament. VS. BOS: has strong numbers in the regular season vs. the Red Sox in his career, going 3-0 with a 2.50 ERA (5ER/18IP)and 20 strikeouts to just 1 walks in 3 starts.
  • his 3 wins vs. Boston are his 2nd-most against any single opponent, trailing only LAA (5).
  • has 1 postseason appearance vs. the Red Sox in his career, coming with a start in Game 3 of the 2021 ALCS…allowed 6 runs (5 earned) on 5 hits through 1.2 IP.
  • matched the longest scoreless outing of his career (7.0 IP) and his most strikeouts (10) in a single game on August, 3, 2022…allowed just 2 hits over the 7.0 scoreless IP and did not surrender a walk to go with the 10 strikeouts.
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